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A learning journey that packs a punch

By Alistair Cameron - Posted on 30 May 2017

A week on from the end of the latest Growth Advantage Programme at Strathclyde Business School, Alistair Cameron reflects on the Growth Advantage Programme and the impact it has had on him and his business.

A week after the 2016 Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) drew to a close, I find myself reflecting upon the effect that the “learning journey” has had on me personally, and for our business now and in the future.

Scotmas is an innovation driven business. Working closely with academic researchers, we have an enthusiastic, energetic team working to deliver products and technologies that control dangerous bacteria and infections, without destroying the environment in the process. We are regarded as worldwide leaders in our field, and our work takes us to diverse parts of the world including Chile, Botswana and Qatar. By most measures, we are doing well as a business – why then would I choose to give up a good chunk of my work and weekend time to throw myself back into the classroom?

Scotmas has an ambitious target that will see us double sales in the next three years. With high ambitions come risks, particularly for small to medium sized enterprises like ours. Like most leaders of entrepreneurial businesses, I have learned to become self-reliant and have often found myself making decisions on 'gut instinct'. I had the distinct feeling that I needed to sharpen up my skills in order to lead the business over the next phase of our growth.

The Growth Advantage Programme brings together 20 or so leaders of non-competing entrepreneurial businesses that have the ambition to scale up significantly over the next three years. The programme aims to provide the leaders of those businesses with the tools, confidence and support network to help achieve that growth.

The formal part of the programme brings the cohort together at Strathclyde Business School to learn from experts from the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and, equally importantly, to share and discuss issues and challenges amongst our peers in a 'safe' environment. Whilst those discussions will always remain confidential to the group, one of my biggest takeaways from the GAP experience has been that “you are not alone” and that perhaps some of those challenges that are keeping you awake at night are not so unique after all. There are others out there who have 'been there, done that'.

For me, the unique power of the GAP programme has been in the additional lunchtime masterclasses, offline discussions, network introductions, referrals and brutally honest sharing of current experiences that have brought the GAP 2016 cohort together over the past nine months. Leaders of totally unrelated businesses have been able to recommend financial specialists, alert others to funding opportunities and recommend key staff and non-executive board members. We have been able to access deep insight and “fireside discussions” from current and former leaders of businesses who have been able to achieve inspiring levels of growth and value creation that have spurred us on.

Whilst there are other forms of executive education available out there, ranging from consultant-led seminars, through to week long summer schools and entrepreneurship development programmes, MOOCs and even part time MBAs, no other option I have experienced so far has delivered the same impact to my business as GAP.  A key differentiator is sustainability. By delivering the inputs over a nine month period, the Hunter Centre has facilitated 'bite sized' learning and an element of peer support/pressure that ensures that the cohort are able to apply the learning in their businesses immediately and feedback on progress to the group at the next session. Where problems are encountered, they are shared and worked through as a group.

Although the learning journey has now come to an end for GAP2016, I personally look forward to continuing to share experiences and obtain peer support from GAP colleagues through the new Advantage networking programme for GAP Alumni.  Meanwhile, it’s time for me to now turn all that useful learning into sales, jobs and profit. Watch this space!

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